Nausea according to Chinese Medicine

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Nausea can be the consequence of several so-called “patterns of disharmony” in Chinese Medicine.

Chinese Medicine sees the body as a system, not a sum of isolated parts. A "pattern" is when the system's harmony is disrupted, leading to symptoms or signs that something is wrong (like nausea here). It is similar to the concept of disease in Western Medicine but not quite: a Western disease can often be explained by several Chinese patterns and vice-versa.

A pattern often manifests itself in a combination of symptoms that, at first glance, do not seem necessarily related to each others. For instance here nausea is often associated with dizziness, poor appetite and depression in the pattern “Phlegm”. As you will see below, we have in record five patterns that can cause nausea.

Once identified, patterns are treated using medicinal herbs, acupuncture, and other therapies. In the case of nausea we’ve identified five herbal formulas that may help treat patterns behind the symptom.

We’ve also selected below the five medicinal herbs that we think are most likely to help treat nausea.

The five "patterns of disharmony" that can cause nausea

In Chinese Medicine nausea is a symptom for 5 patterns that we have on record. Below is a small explanation for each of them with links for more details.

Crow-Dipper Rhizomes (Ban Xia) is the king ingredient for Er Chen Tang, a formula used for Phlegm

Phlegm

Pulse type(s): Slippery (Hua), Wiry (Xian)

Tongue coating: Sticky coating, Thick coating

Tongue shape: Swollen

The concept of Phlegm is much wider and important in Chinese Medicine than in the West. Broadly speaking, Phlegm is a substance produced when the body fails to handle Body Fluids properly.

In addition to nausea, other symptoms associated with Phlegm include dizziness, poor appetite and depression.

From a Western Medicine standpoint Phlegm is associated with health issues such as Low Breast Milk Supply, Late Menstruation or Scanty Menstruation.

Phlegm is often treated with Er Chen Tang, a herbal formula made of 5 herbs (including Crow-Dipper Rhizomes - Ban Xia - as a key herb). Er Chen Tang belongs to the category of "formulas that dry dampness and transform phlegm", which might be why it is often recommended for this pattern. Its main action as a formula is: "Dries Damp and dispels Phlegm".

Read more about Phlegm here

The Spleen is a so-called "Zang" Organ. Learn more about the Spleen in Chinese Medicine

Cold-Damp invading the Spleen

Pulse type(s): Slippery (Hua), Slow (Chi)

In addition to nausea, other symptoms associated with Cold-Damp invading the Spleen include poor appetite, loose stools and lassitude.

Cold-Damp invading the Spleen is often treated with Ping Wei San, a herbal formula made of 4 herbs (including Black Atractylodes Rhizomes - Cang Zhu - as a key herb). Ping Wei San belongs to the category of "formulas that transform dampness and harmonize stomach", which might be why it is often recommended for this pattern. Its main action as a formula is: "Dries Dampness".

Read more about Cold-Damp invading the Spleen here

The Stomach is a so-called "Fu" Organ. Learn more about the Stomach in Chinese Medicine

Stomach Qi rebelling upwards

Pulse type(s): Tight (Jin), Wiry (Xian)

In addition to nausea, other symptoms associated with Stomach Qi rebelling upwards include vomiting, belching and difficulty swallowing.

Stomach Qi rebelling upwards is often treated with Ding Xiang Shi Di Tang, a herbal formula made of 4 herbs (including Cloves - Ding Xiang - as a key herb). Ding Xiang Shi Di Tang belongs to the category of "formulas for a rebellious qi", which might be why it is often recommended for this pattern. Its main action as a formula is: "Augments the Qi".

Read more about Stomach Qi rebelling upwards here

Inula Flowers (Xuan Fu Hua) is the king ingredient for Xuan Fu Dai Zhe Tang, a formula used for Rebellious Qi

Rebellious Qi

Pulse type(s): Wiry (Xian)

Tongue color: Normal (light red), Red sides

Rebellious Qi is when Qi flows in the wrong direction. For instance, if one suffers from a rebellious Stomach Qi (a common case), the normal downward flow of Stomach Qi is disrupted and it goes upward instead. This may result in nausea, vomiting, belching or hiccupping.

In addition to nausea, other symptoms associated with Rebellious Qi include vomiting, belching and insomnia.

Rebellious Qi is often treated with Xuan Fu Dai Zhe Tang, a herbal formula made of 7 herbs (including Inula Flowers - Xuan Fu Hua - as a key herb). Xuan Fu Dai Zhe Tang belongs to the category of "formulas for a rebellious qi", which might be why it is often recommended for this pattern. Its main action as a formula is: "Regulates the downward flow of Stomach Qi".

Read more about Rebellious Qi here

The Stomach is a so-called "Fu" Organ. Learn more about the Stomach in Chinese Medicine

Liver Qi Stagnation invading the Stomach

Pulse type(s): Wiry (Xian)

Tongue coating: Thick coating

Tongue color: Red

In addition to nausea, other symptoms associated with Liver Qi Stagnation invading the Stomach include poor appetite, depression and irritability.

From a Western Medicine standpoint Liver Qi Stagnation invading the Stomach is associated with health issues such as Morning Sickness.

Liver Qi Stagnation invading the Stomach is often treated with Ban Xia Hou Pu Tang, a herbal formula made of 5 herbs (including Crow-Dipper Rhizomes - Ban Xia - as a key herb). Ban Xia Hou Pu Tang belongs to the category of "formulas that promote qi movement", which might be why it is often recommended for this pattern. Its main action as a formula is: "Regulates the flow of Qi, treats esophageal spasm".

Read more about Liver Qi Stagnation invading the Stomach here

Five herbal formulas that might help with nausea

Er Chen Tang

Source date: 1148 AD

Number of ingredients: 5 herbs

Key actions: Dries Damp and dispels Phlegm. Regulates Qi and harmonizes the Middle Burner (Stomach and Spleen).

Why might Er Chen Tang help with nausea?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Phlegm' of which nausea is a symptom.

According to Chinese Medicine, Phlegm can contribute to many health issues, including Menopausal Syndrome.

Read more about Er Chen Tang here

Ping Wei San

Source date: 1051 AD

Number of ingredients: 4 herbs

Key actions: Dries Dampness. Improves the Spleen's transportive function. Promotes the movement of Qi. Harmonizes the Stomach.

Why might Ping Wei San help with nausea?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Cold-Damp invading the Spleen' of which nausea is a symptom.

Other symptoms characteristic of Cold-Damp Invading The Spleen include poor appetite, loose stools and lassitude.

Read more about Ping Wei San here

Ban Xia Hou Pu Tang

Source date: 220 AD

Number of ingredients: 5 herbs

Key actions: Regulates the flow of Qi, treats esophageal spasm. Clears Phlegm.

Why might Ban Xia Hou Pu Tang help with nausea?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Liver Qi Stagnation invading the Stomach' of which nausea is a symptom.

According to Chinese Medicine, Liver Qi Stagnation invading the Stomach can contribute to many health issues, including Morning Sickness.

Read more about Ban Xia Hou Pu Tang here

Ding Xiang Shi Di Tang

Source date: 1706 AD

Number of ingredients: 4 herbs

Key actions: Augments the Qi. Warms the Middle Burner. Directs Rebellious Qi downward. Stops hiccup.

Why might Ding Xiang Shi Di Tang help with nausea?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Stomach Qi rebelling upwards' of which nausea is a symptom.

Other symptoms characteristic of Stomach Qi Rebelling Upwards include vomiting, belching and difficulty swallowing.

Read more about Ding Xiang Shi Di Tang here

Xuan Fu Dai Zhe Tang

Source date: 220 AD

Number of ingredients: 7 herbs

Key actions: Regulates the downward flow of Stomach Qi. Expectorant, treats hiccups.

Why might Xuan Fu Dai Zhe Tang help with nausea?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Rebellious Qi' of which nausea is a symptom.

Other symptoms characteristic of Rebellious Qi include vomiting, belching and insomnia.

Read more about Xuan Fu Dai Zhe Tang here

The five Chinese Medicinal herbs most likely to help treat nausea

Why might Liquorice (Gan Cao) help with nausea?

Because Liquorice is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat nausea as a symptom, like Er Chen Tang or Ping Wei San for instance.

Liquorice is a Neutral herb that tastes Sweet. It targets the Spleen, the Stomach, the Heart and the Lung.

Its main actions are: Tonifies the Basal Qi and nourishes the Spleen Qi. Clears Heat and dispels toxicity. Moistens the Lungsexpel phlegm and stop coughing. Relieves spasms and alleviates pain. Harmonizes and moderates the effects of other herbs.

Read more about Liquorice here

Why might Crow-Dipper Rhizome (Ban Xia) help with nausea?

Because Crow-Dipper Rhizome is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat nausea as a symptom, like Er Chen Tang or Ban Xia Hou Pu Tang for instance.

Crow-Dipper Rhizomes is a Warm herb that tastes Pungent. It targets the Spleen, the Stomach and the Lung.

Its main actions are: Drains Dampness and reduces Phlegm. Reverses the flow of Rebellious Qi. Reduces hardenings and relieves distention.

Read more about Crow-Dipper Rhizomes here

Why might Poria-Cocos Mushroom (Fu Ling) help with nausea?

Because Poria-Cocos Mushroom is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat nausea as a symptom, like Wu Ling San or Er Chen Tang for instance.

Poria-Cocos Mushrooms is a Neutral herb that tastes Sweet. It targets the Spleen, the Heart, the Kidney and the Lung.

Its main actions are: Encourages urination and drains Dampness. Tonic to the Spleen/Stomach. Assists the Heart and calms the Spirit.

Read more about Poria-Cocos Mushrooms here

Why might Tangerine Peel (Chen Pi) help with nausea?

Because Tangerine Peel is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat nausea as a symptom, like Ju Pi Zhu Ru Tang or Er Chen Tang for instance.

Tangerine Peel is a Warm herb that tastes Bitter and Pungent. It targets the Spleen and the Lung.

Its main actions are: Warms the Spleen and regulates the Middle Burner Qi. Dries Dampness and disperses Phlegm from the Lungs and Middle Burner. Reduces the potential for Stagnation caused by tonifying herbs.

Read more about Tangerine Peel here

Why might Fresh Ginger (Sheng Jiang) help with nausea?

Because Fresh Ginger is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat nausea as a symptom, like Ding Xiang Shi Di Tang or Xuan Fu Dai Zhe Tang for instance.

Fresh Ginger is a Warm herb that tastes Pungent. It targets the Spleen, the Stomach and the Lung.

Its main actions are: Relieves the Exterior and disperses Cold. Warms and circulates Qi in the Middle Burner. Calms a restless fetus and treats morning sickness. Treats seafood poisoning.

Read more about Fresh Ginger here